Michael had hesitated a moment longer, the memory of the carnival still fresh in his mind. He could almost taste the hint of cotton candy on her lips, the shudder of her body against his, the dip of his stomach as the Ferris wheel lifted them high into the night air, the noise of the world falling away below. He’d wanted the feeling to last forever, not yet realizing how things would change for them how they always do for young people in love.
Sitting now in the still of the parking lot, the car noiseless except for the soft knock of the engine block as it cooled, he draped his right arm over the seat back and turned to study his two boys, one a constant source of chatter and energy and the other an enigma, silent and indecipherable.
Michael glanced at his wristwatch: still ten minutes before the market closed for the evening.
‘Sean, you come with me,’ he said. ‘Danny,’ he waited for the boy to make eye contact, the only confirmation that he was listening ‘I want you to stay here. We shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.’
There was no dissent from Danny. Would there ever be? and so Michael turned in his seat, grasped the door handle, and swung it wide, stepping out into the parking lot, the gravel loose and shifting beneath the soles of his wingtips. Standing beside the open door of the Mercury, he hesitated, considered not going into the market after all, folding himself back into the car and driving away. He could return home, stop long enough to collect his wife but leave everything else behind. There were other places for them to live besides Cottonwood. The town pulled at them, greedy and unrelenting, demanding more from his family than it had any right to take. Somewhere else, things could be better. Somewhere else, there might be another way.
About the Author
John Burley is the award-winning author of The Absence of Mercy, honored with the National Black Ribbon Award, and The Forgetting Place. He attended medical school in Chicago and completed his emergency medicine residency at University of Maryland Medical Center and Shock Trauma in Baltimore. He continues to serve as an emergency medicine physician in Northern California.
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